BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College marked the start of the 2019-2020 academic year Aug. 22 with a formal matriculation ceremony to welcome the Class of 2023.
Heavy rain in the early afternoon forced the ceremony indoors, to Commencement Hall, instead of the previously planned Pennington Quadrangle.
But the clouds gave way long enough for the Class of 2023 to pass through the historic Oglebay Gates. Bethany tradition bestows the honor as the students begin their journey at the College and again upon their graduation.
With the sounds of traditional bagpipes in the air, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing Karen Hunt led the procession from Benedum Commons through the Oglebay Gates and into Commencement Hall.
The ceremony culminated in each incoming freshman signing the Book of Matriculation – a tradition that dates back to the late 1800s.
Bethany President, the Rev. Dr. Tamara Nichols Rodenberg welcomed the Class of 2023.
“Today, our campus feels fully alive again with the excitement, energy, laughter, smiles, determination, drive, and special gifts that each new member of our community bring to the 2019-2020 academic year,” Dr. Rodenberg said.
She then shared an abridged version of “The Will to Win,” a poem by Berton Braley, which talks about the steps to success.
Upon finishing the poem, Dr. Rodenberg said: “As I look at you today, I not only see first-year students; I also see remarkable individuals. They don’t just ‘get it’ but they will exceed every expectation in the process. In fact, in front of me I see the Class of 2023. I see a commencement unfolding.”
Leaving Bethany with an undergraduate, and possibly even a graduate, diploma would be an extraordinary conclusion, she said.
“Begin this journey knowing this: We chose you because we believe in you, which means we are already partners in your success,” Dr. Rodenberg said. “In essence, today, in this moment, you become ‘One Team. One Tradition. One Bethany.’”
She then asked the students to look at the student on the right – “making eye contact” – and say, “We will graduate together,” and then make the same pledge to the student on the left, and again to the faculty and staff in attendance.
“Over these next four years, you are colleagues on the journey,” she said. “You are not in this alone. Together, we succeed. Together, we move forward. Together, we are a team.”
Bethany founder Alexander Campbell outlined the purpose of the college: “We exist in order to prepare students to become useful and responsible members of society by liberating them from superstition and ignorance, the tyranny of others, and vulgar prejudice.”
His words, spoken in 1840, Dr. Rodenberg said, are just as important in 2019.
“Every one of you has raw talent,” she said. “Every last person has potential, but hear me, not everyone has the will to win. We are here to help you develop you passion and your will to win.”
Reed D. Long, student government association president, also addressed the new Bethanians.
He offered these words of encouragement: “You are here for a reason. You can be whatever you want to be here. … Here, you will open your mind to possibilities that you never thought possible.”
Bethany received a record number of applications for the 2019-2020 school year. The incoming class is made up of more than 220 individuals from 18 states and six other countries (Australia, Zambia, China, Canada, Argentina, and Central African Republic).
Bethany renewed its focus to educating students in the region, welcoming 140 freshmen from Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
ABOUT BETHANY COLLEGE
Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.